Noel Hadjimicahel is a conservative Liberal who lives and works in Western Sydney, a crucial election battleground. He is a Webdiary columnist.
The announcement of the October federal poll will bring both commentators and voters back to reality. The real battle war over Australia’s political direction will revolve around regional security rather than refugees. Demands of family, enterprise and community will crowd out today’s hot issues.
Truth in government, a rescue of Medicare (the Labor States doing a great job with hospitals) or the promotion of individual choice (social versus economic) will recede from the public debate. This reflects the phoney election campaign we have encountered ever since Mark Latham had two good weeks in a row in Parliament.
So many commentators have got so excited. So many will be scratching their heads when the blowtorch of campaigning hits Labor hard. The Liberals in the political mainstream and the Greens on the left will put Labor in the spotlight for the values-free stance they have on so many issues.
It takes more than a Senate Committee probe or an Alexander Downer press interview to weaken a government that has delivered the three priorities of mainstream voters: security, sound economics and sustainable social policy.
Labor has done all it can to present itself as the fresh face of modern Australia. However, if they are such great policy makers or administrative wizards, why are Labor State Governments in most states facing big problems with voters? If it is not crime in the streets of Melbourne or planning bloopers worthy of the Keystone Cops in Sydney, it is a forests policy in Tasmania that offends just about everyone in the debate.
There is a limit to how many times the same viewers of late night television will accept the Kevin Rudd version of moderate Labor pragmatism before the antics of the other Shadow Ministers make the idea of Labor on the Treasury benches uncomfortable.
John Howard is not going to make the one third of committed Labor or hard-line Green voters happy. However, the vital voting blocs of young marrieds, outer suburban families, the Sea Change retirees and the independent small business operators have much to worry about with Labor.
It is not just Sydney mortgage belts that would suffer if interest rates were to rise under a spend-to-please Labor administration. Seventeen percent was bad enough when loans were about $100,000. Now with many loans of more than $250,000 even a four percent rise in rates would rob households of at least $200 a week after tax.
The Mark Latham idea about insiders and outsiders is very persuasive. However, the outer suburban voters are looking for the steady as she goes stability of a Howard fourth term than an experiment with the crash through aggression of the “new Whitlam”.
Retirees and lifestyle commuters appear fed up with a Labor agenda that is long on slogans and short on detail. Plebiscites on a Republic and maybe a fresh campaign to change the flag will do little to address the social or economic needs of those over 55.
Federal Labor just doesn’t get it on labour market reform. Small business will not hire if new taxes are levied on the current Superannuation levy or the hiring or firing of staff is hampered by red tape. Ten jobs in a strong economy are far better than a single unionised job in the public sector or the big end of town.
On the whole, the themes of security, sound economics and sustainable communities should emerge as the cornerstone of a make or break election. Federal Labor went for the high-risk leadership contender, and they are in for a very interesting time.